I often consider myself more of an anime fan in passing. I love anime, but I can’t say I can stand watching through 50-100 episode long anime, at least not as much anymore. When I was but a young man though, there was one anime that I loved passionately: Dragon Ball Z. It was a good anime, at least for a few time. While I find the later arcs to drag quite a bit, it was still an enjoyable adventure from beginning to end. So, with Dragon Ball Xenoverse now out and the Dragon Ball Super anime now in its second year of broadcast, I thought I’d talk about the Dragon Ball Z movies. Yeah, all 15 of them! This is gonna be a looooooooong November.
After all, I feel like anime films are a good way to introduce someone to a series. As far as films based off anime go, Dragon Ball Z probably has some of the best ones. Even though the films are usually rehashes of story-arcs from the show, they are still a ton of fun. So, let’s begin with the first Dragon Ball Z film and one of the best: Dragon Ball Z Dead Zone!
Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone was originally released in 1989, it made its way into the theaters as the series was just beginning. Since so few episodes had aired at this point in time, the creators winged it and based the film more off the style and feel of Dragon Ball as opposed to Dragon Ball Z. What do I mean by that? Well, Dragon Ball was focused on action as well as adventure, while Z focused more on just action. Dead Zone draws more elements from Dragon Ball, such as Goku using his power pole more as well as nimbus. On top of this, characters rarely fly in this film, which was a stable for Dragon Ball Z at this point.
Plot and Characters
Taking place after the end of Dragon Ball, but before the start of Dragon Ball Z, our plot focuses on Goku raising his son Gohan. However, Gohan is kidnapped by the mischievous and powerful imp known as Garlic Jr. who plans to use the 7 magical Dragon Balls to wish for immortality. Goku must muster up his strength in order to do battle against Garlic’s ruthless henchmen, while at the same time working alongside his arch-enemy Piccolo.
While the plot of the film is considered non-canon, it’s still an enjoyable ride. Sure, it’s basically a remake of the fight with Raditz, but is infinitely more entertaining. For one thing, I found Garlic to be a more memorable villain than Raditz. Garlic Jr. is effectively a ripoff of Emperor Pilaf from the original Dragon Ball show, though much more powerful. While it’s true that Garlic Jr. gets beaten like a chump in this movie, he’s still an enjoyable villain. It comes with the territory of having the voice who played Pilaf playing this character. I’ll get into that more a bit later, but for now I’ll just say that the character himself was top-notch.
Sadly, the henchmen were kind of forgettable. This is sadly par four the course when it comes to Dragon Ball Z movie villains. The only henchmen in these films that I found truly amazing were the baddies from movies 5 and 9. Most of the underlings in these films tend to be mostly generic, which is kind of sad. Even the Spice Boys (Garlic Jr.’s henchmen in the anime) were still more memorable than these dorks!
For a film that came out in 1989, the animation looks stellar! Characters are designed well and have some pretty good animation behind them. Fight scenes look amazingly fluid and have a good sense of pizzazz. The soundtrack is pretty solid, what you’d expect from a Dragon Ball production. It captures the feel of Z and helps bring a lot of excitement to the action sequences.
While Garlic Jr.’s character is blatantly stolen from Emperor Pilaf, his voice actor Chuck Huber manages to bring a fair amount of enjoyment to the character. As previously mentioned, Chuck also played Pilaf in the original show. While the two characters sound and look identical, it’s Garlic’s ability to actually fight that makes him a surprisingly superior villain. Don’t get me wrong, I still Emperor Pilaf as a character, but I find Garlic Jr. to be a much more threatening villain.
All in all, I found the production values behind this film to be excellent and top-notch! Sure, parts of it seem dated, but it really stands out when compared to the animation that is often seen on television today. Voice-acting on this film is also pretty stellar, though some of the earlier versions of the film’s English dub are sadly very forgettable.
Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone is a short, yet immensely entertaining film. It lacks the punch that later films had, but had an entertaining villain and fantastic action sequences. The henchmen are forgettable, but the film makes up for it with a lot of heart. I can 100% reccomend this film to anyone and everyone, as it is truly a classic. That’s why I can say without a doubt that this animated film is as sweet as syrup! I think everyone who’s a big Dragon Ball Z needs to see this golden oldie!